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[Fiction] Semester's End [Complete]


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Preston stepped forward through the flames. The fire itself was playing out in slow motion, going backwards to its points of origin. The lawman moved around the flickering death, studying the details of the building that was slowly coming back to life before his eyes. It was an old building, probably inhabited by the homeless. The fire had an unnatural life of its own, which to Preston spelt nova.

Flames billowed along the ceiling and led upstairs. The echoes of earlier movements led him to follow the flames. He went up the stairs cautiously, limiting the impact his vision was having on this near-future. At the top of the stairs, Preston heard the laughter and made out on lone voice talking to itself. She – the speaker was a she – was getting ready for something; getting ready to kill someone … someone outside. Preston reached forward to touch the heavily altered nova and then she shimmered. The wholes scene shimmered in and out of multiple realities until the he was left in the prime reality, alone and flameless.

Now the flames would awaken here. Now, the woman wouldn’t come here to bring death and destruction, but she was still coming. Preston had glimpsed enough of her half-on profile to start putting links together. His eyes blinked once more and he was back in his office in desperate need of his own smoke. A deep breath followed another then another. Preston picked up the phone. In making this call, he would alter the stream of events that were to come. He couldn’t not call. Stopping the bad guys wasn’t as important to him as saving lives. There would be orders to issue soon, but he had to start at what his seasoned detective’s mind told him was the focus of these events. Her name was on his speed dial, just like every other member of the NRT.

“Hello,” events shattered and the future once more flowed like water around him.

“This is Captain Preston. She’s back and she’s coming for you.”

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The room was nearly bare of furniture; only a few narrow tables along the walls and a mirror taking nearly a wall by itself offered any decoration. Not even a rug broke the bare plane of the wooden floor. Lou Anne slowly worked her way through the lesson from Tuesday night's martial arts class. Since her rather embarrassing night in March after the revelation of Statue-Gate, Lou Anne had worked to minimize any flaws in her technique. She had no illusions about how ineffective this might be against Carla, but the discipline would do her good.

The sound of her phone's chime overwhelmed the low music she played for background. It was not the normal chime though, but rather a special ringtone, one that she had heard only periodically in the past. Dixie, as it had been for her Ancestors, was a battle call. The Boston Police Department was calling. She stopped the form she was working on and ran to the table, turning off the music and picking up the phone in one smooth motion.


"This is Captain Preston. She's back and she's coming for you."

"She's in Boston now? Where?" Her mind was racing as she hurried out of the room she used as for a dance or martial arts studio. I need to get to my Eufiber. “Where should I meet you?” Her voice displayed obvious agitation, and maybe a little panic.

“No, calm down, she’s not here yet. But she’s coming.”

Lou Anne stopped dead in her tracks and took a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll get a shower and get my file that I’ve put together on her. I think I need to bring you and he rest of the NRT up to speed on what I know and suspect. When and where would be good to meet, and how long do you think we have?”

She started walking at a more sedate pace for her bathroom as Officer Preston answered her questions the best he could.

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"It would be better if Detective Ramirez and I met you at your residence," Preston said. "I will have the NRT brought up to speed tomorrow, once we know more," he added.

"As best as I can tell, we have a week to ten days before Carla makes her move. Since you are the focal point for her activates, I want to start my hunt around you and work my way out. Give me a call when you have the files ready."

"Also, since I tagged her initial moves against you, her timeline and approach has altered. This is something I have encountered before when dealing with novas, so don't be overly concerned. I expect you call soon."

Preston waited for Ms. Burgess's confirmation before hanging up. He tugged on his psychic link,

Selena, we have an inbound hostile nova seven to ten days out. I've got a focus - Lou Anne Burgess - based on some kind of personal grudge/vengeance. Burgess will be calling in under fifteen for a meeting at her residence near Cambridge.

His thoughts were as terse as his speech. Few would have guessed the affection he had for his long time partner on the force.

As it was, Selena could tell that this latest problem had Preston upset. She had enough time to drop off Winter, her daughter, with her own mother and get to the station.

When she arrived at the station, Selena found Preston on the phone with the Maryland Department of Corrections. Whatever information he was getting on their 'perp' wasn't making his mood any brighter. That much made sense considering that Lou Anne was one of theirs - a nova that chose to put their lives on the line for the city with the NRT. A hostile nova stepping into 'his' city was bad enough, but the members of the NRT were akin to family.

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Having showered and changed into suitable clothes for the meeting, Lou Anne entered her office and logged into the patient files section of her system. Carla wasn’t a patient of hers, but the information wasn’t something that was suitable for anyone that might get into her system to see. While she gathered the files, she called Rachel’s portable. “Rachel? You’re not with a student right now are you?”

“Hi! No... what’s wrong, you sound distracted?”

“Captain Preston called a few minutes ago. He said that Carla’s going to be coming for me within the next week or two.”

“Like the bomb wasn’t enough, she actually coming to Boston this time? Wait a minute, is she after you in Boston, or me in Amherst again?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure how accurate what he originally saw will be, he said that observing it may alter it. So I guess it’s possible she could go after you in Amherst again, or try for both of us here in Boston. But, let’s not jump to conclusions yet. I’m going to call him & he’ll meet me here with Officer Ramirez to go over what information we have.”

“Okay, I won’t say anything to the school until after that. But we may need to get that Elite here. The school can’t afford another massacre here.” In her office, Rachel paled, Boston couldn’t afford a massacre either, but they at least had been largely left alone for several years.

“I need to call Captain Preston, I’ll let you know when you get in tonight. Are you okay Rachel?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m uh, fine. I’ll keep an eye out for her just in case. See you tonight.”

They said their goodbyes and hung up, both were nervous, but until whatever shoe Carla was waiting to drop fell, there was little they could do. Activating her portable again Lou Anne called Captain Preston. She got his voice mail. “Captain Preston, it’s Lou Anne. I have my materials together and I’m ready for you and Officer Ramirez to come over any time. Just call to let me know and I can get tea or coffee ready for you.”

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Reality wobbled and warped milliseconds before Preston and then the feral Officer Ramirez came through. Reality gave one last ripple and returned to is solid appearance.

"Not necessary, Mrs. Burgess," Preston said with an air of distraction about him. For a moment, he seemed to look straight through Lou Anne to her desk. His eyes blazed with a white quantum light. He shook his head and looked around. Selena took on a more relaxed air,

"Tea would be nice, please."

Taking in the room as well as the views to other rooms, Selena added.

"Don't mind him. Right now he's running down probabilities so we can better know what's what."

Preston moved his gaze away from the desk and the ghostly image of a smoking Lou Anne Burgess cooked so hard she had carbonized to Rachel's blood pool blackened on the floor. These were far probability echoes and one of the distractions of his gift. He ground his teeth together. His quarry wasn't a pretercog, but fast and cagey. In the multiple futures, traps were launched and failed, time and again, but the response was always tinged with greater desperation. Without something tying him to Carla, Preston had too much to work with and too little to narrow the field.

Preston's eyes returned to their normal milky-white hue and he turned to face Lou Anne.

"This isn't something that is going to go away," he said grimly. "This is a personal hate and not something she's going to let go of this side of the grave."

Without pause, he continued,

"Can I see those files now? I need something to narrow the hunt."

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Lou Anne brings in the tea as Captain Preston and Selena get settled. Once they had their tea to their liking, Lou Anne started presenting the information to the two Officers. She began with files on Carla’s conservative and religious youth which ended in her arrest at age 17 for armed robbery and murder. That progressed on to things that Carla had said that were of interest during the time that she was arrested and Lou Anne was visiting her.

The beginning of the next file contained information about the last visits that Lou Anne had with Carla before she was locked away in Solitary confinement. It is likely that the fight that landed her in such straits was the catalyst for her eruption. Her apparent escape from prison and use of a woman’s house that she had presumably murdered lead into her apparent attempt on Rachel’s life at the University in Amherst and then the kidnaping and torture of their father.

Lou Anne’s observations from that event shine a light on the person that Carla may have become as an adult. Carla believes that Lou Anne helped her to escape from prison. Her life has become a strange dichotomy. She is very religious, yet as the form of a demoness and appears to be distracted or harmed by religious symbols. Lou Anne believes that years of rape by her cell mate have crafted a woman so adverse to homosexuality that even those only loosely associated with it require torture and death. Her demonic appearance mixed with her now perverted sense of religion and her hatred to create someone that felt they must punish gays, must help them to cleanse their souls, whether it is as god’s angel or the devil’s though, Lou Anne can’t determine.

He reads quotes from witnesses. “God might understand it was her fault and not yours.” “...you must have made mom accept it because no one that read the Bible as much as mom would ever! Ever! Do you hear me? Let her daughter do something like that...” “...trying to push Patty that way too weren’t you...start with this Jeannie slut. You ignored God’s laws and now you’re going to pay for it!” “Hi sis. How’d you like my present?”

Then detail on symbols. Contact with a cross around Patty’s neck burned Carla’s hand. A strongly presented cross, almost as if from a vampire movie, from Mrs. Burgess extinguished Carla’s fiery aura. He reads about her abilities – strong control of flame, projection of flame in an aura, wings, a tail, horns, augmented strength and beauty, resistance to harm, regeneration, and of course, the ability to teleport.

The mental evaluation was even more disturbing. Extreme antisocial tendencies; a quick, violent temper; indications of a psychotic break; utter hatred of gays; an apparent tendency towards torture, perhaps sadism.

Then the files entered speculation. News reports from around the United States, Mexico, Europe of bodies found burned and mutilated. Reports of missing men and women, some found, many still unaccounted for. The very last information was the bomb sent on Lou Anne’s birthday, allegedly from her brother Wayne. “You’re right Lou Anne. I’ll tell you what. You kill that whore Rachel and fuck a football team and I’ll think about turning myself in. Hey! Maybe we can be cell mates. I’ll keep an eye on the news.”

Lou Anne gave Preston a fresh cup of tea, though she did wonder if perhaps alcohol would be better received. “Well, what do you think, and what more do you need to know?”

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Preston studied the evidence and speculations hoping something would trigger a special insight. Nothing touched him in that manner, but something else did. It gave him an angle, but one he was that Lou Anne wouldn't be happy with. He studied the information once more, even into an uncomfortable silence.

He cleared his throat before beginning.

"Mrs. Burgess, I think you have missed a facet to Carla's activities. For instance, she refers to Rachel as that whore. That signals to me a sense for rivalry and personal jealousy. Carla doesn't want you dead. That is why she came for Rachel personally, but sent you a bomb. Lou Anne, she wants to be with you."

Preston kept his gaze firmly on Lou Anne as he let that point soak in.

"Her anti-homosexual fury comes from being raped in prison by other women. Her pattern of attack is that of homosexuals of both genders, but not prison inmates, and felons who have served their time, but would still engender memories of her attackers. Carla doesn't hate the sin, she hates the sinner. She is driven by intense self-loathing over her own impulses."

"Again, her chosen form after eruption isn't that of an avenging angel, or a caricature of her when she was attacked, but one of the damned - a demoness. She hates you, because you represent a lesbian who has accepted who she is and have been open and honest with the world. At the same time, she wants you, probably since you were the only lesbian she knew intimately when she was in a crisis of identity."

"She loves you. She loves you as a woman partially responsible for her own sexual awakening. She loves you for the woman you have become. She hates as a you as a woman who did what she couldn't bring herself to do. She hates you for being happy with someone else besides her. She hates Rachel as the other woman."

"Do you see my point?"

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Lou Anne looked at Preston with what she hoped was only slight surprise, her shock at what he was suggesting increased as he continued. Once he had finished speaking, she pondered what he had said and compared it against what she had seen from Carla during their time in the basement of the farmhouse. Much as she wanted to dismiss it as ridiculous, she couldn’t do that flat out, but under scrutiny, she wasn’t sure that Preston’s assessment was correct. “I’m not sure I agree with you, but I can understand your view on that. When we first actually met, she said that she wanted to save me, she wanted to save me from Rachel and myself.” Lou Anne shifted in her seat showing a reference to the conversation.

“I think love does play a part in it, but more Storge or Philia because of being my sister than the Eros that you seem to be seeing. I think, she refers to Rachel as ‘the whore’ not because Rachel’s the woman I’m with, but because she identifies Rachel with whomever had attacked her over the years. I’m reasonably sure that her cell mate, Josie was involved, but I don’t know how many others, if any, may have been as well. If she sees Rachel in the Josie position, then by proxy, I would be in Carla’s former position. Thus, she wanted to save me from Rachel because she saw her eruption as me saving her from Josie.” Lou Anne grimaces.

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure that her saving me would be any less gruesome than the punishment that would have been due Rachel if she’d been able to get to her. I’m not sure how I’d interpret the avoiding felons. Do we know for certain that none of her victims have a criminal record? As for potentially going into a jail, in all honesty, I’m amazed that she stayed in jail for what we assume was a few weeks while she apparently learned to use her powers and made her preparations to go to Amherst. The last time I spoke to her in prison, she wanted to get out, and it’s very possible that with Josie dead, she didn’t have any other immediate vendettas that were important enough to kill anyone there or cause her to go back into a prison.”

“Ignoring all of that, when she saw me at the farm house, she was angry. She activated her flame aura the moment she knew I was there. I have to admit I was a bit distracted trying to evacuate Dad at the beginning, and her eyes being like they are, made reading her a bit more difficult. However, once I could put my full attention on her face, she didn’t look lustful, and love really didn’t seem present either. I will grant that it’s possible she’d be happy if I ended up straight since that has been a common element of both conversations we’ve had since her eruption. If that’s the case, then I may be the one lesbian she wouldn’t kill; assuming I’d repent the error of my ways. But that really doesn’t make me feel any safer since I’ve already told her I’m not going to do that.”

Lou Anne scanned both officer’s faces trying to get an idea for where they stood at this point.

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Selena watches the interplay without comment. In her mind, she was the nuts and bolts detective. Once she knew how the perp was going to make its move, she could handle the tactical aspects of the confrontation. She didn't say capture, because with this one, capture might not be an option.

Preston nodded.

"The important point is that Carla wants to confront you, not just kill you. That's her greatest window of vulnerability. What we need to decide is if it’s worth the risk to you. Quite frankly, you aren't a police officer and I'm not comfortable using you to lure Carla out. We are only talking about it because we both know that I can't intercept her before she comes close to you. All I can do is make the odds as much in our favor when she does decide to show."

"Now, I don't see much hope of any meeting of you two to not devolving to lethal force. No matter what degree of her emotional attachment to you, we aren't going get around her desire for sense of finality with you. What we do have is time plan out what we want to happen and much of that decision-making is in your hands. You are the focus point."

"Two more things to consider are that once we are done here, I'm going to have to contact the FBI. They aren't going to step on my toes, though they will have some people come over and keep tabs on us. The second part of that is they will contact the Directive, since this is a nova threat. I've burned a good many bridges with the few people I have known so I can't guarantee just how involved they will become. I sense they are willing to let us do much of the legwork. They will want in at the end of this situation though, and I'm not sure how badly they will want to get hold of Carla."

Preston lowered his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"But back to the question: were do you see this going?"

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“Where do I see this going? Straight to Hell. Figuratively of course.”

“I agree one hundred percent on her wanting a confrontation with me at some point. The bomb was her first direct attack on me personally so she may be focusing more on me. In any case, we’ve got three main potential targets if she’s coming here, which priority she puts them in will be up to her. That may be zero, but we can’t honestly know. Mom and Patty are one target, Rachel is a possible second, and of course me. If we foil her too much, she may just back away and go after an easier target. Secondary targets are also a possibility, the State House, any gay friendly bar in the city or maybe even things we wouldn’t think of.”

“I hate to say it, but if we really want to minimize deaths or collateral damage, we’re almost going to have to let her have what she wants. Do you have a fully GPS capable transmitter like the ankle bracelets they tag parolees with? If so, Rachel and I, maybe mom and Patty could wear them. Getting another that could be fireproofed and placed on Carla might not be a bad idea. If she stays to fight, it’s useless, but if she runs, which I think she will if she’s desperate or if she wants to convince me to repent, we’ll need them.”

“Um, we also have the possibility of distracting her. The statue that Good Alice made of me is buried in the back yard, we can always exhume it to give her a target to take out some aggression on over blasphemy perhaps.” Lou Anne smiled trying to lighten the situation. “Who knows, maybe it will be good for something after all.”

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Preston nods and a cross between a grimace and a grin comes to his face.

"We will have to talk to your Mother, Patty, and Rachel about this. You understand I can't ask any of you to endanger your lives. In fact, my first priority is to keep all of you alive. I also know the only chance in hell anyone has of catching her is to use you and your family as bait."

That last bit Preston growls out, obviously not like being stumped like this.

"I want to limit this to just you and Rachel. We can do these two ways. I could put a pair of detectives on both the Patty and your Mother ... or, we could create some fiction that gets them out of town and off the radar for ten days."

"If they stay in town, I'm going to put Virgil on standby near them. His force projections should be able to keep Carla from snatching them and 'porting away. I can't guarantee that his force fields will totally protect them, but I can't see her staying to slug it out with another nova, not for secondary targets. Unfortunately, that ties down our most powerful combat effective nova."

"If we need to get them out of town, we fly them ... to say Pittsburg then the FBI vanishes them for the allotted amount of time. Even we won't know were they are," he lied. Preston had every intention of touching them and tracking their movements, just in case.

Selena sits back and watches the planning come along. She even refreshes her tea while Preston talks. Her more feline features become more evident as Lou Anne observes her. Selena's footfalls are silent and every movement is languid and relaxed. Only Selena's eyes flitting around the room belie her bored exterior.

"The Statue ..." Preston muses. "Let's go out and let me see what I can see. I want to give it a very close object reading ... that means touching it and cutting out other distractions. If ...”

Preston shakes his head.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves."

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"Getting Mom and Patty out of here and to someplace less conspicuous sounds good to me. Losing another daughter before her eighteenth birthday would probably do Mom in. The last few months have been harder than most people realize." While Lou Anne looked worried, Preston saw beneath that and realized that it wasn’t just daughterly worry, but professional concern. "It’s going to be bad enough with Rachel and I being in danger, but I don’t think we have much choice in the matter. Besides, we can’t afford to hamstring ourselves with Virgil being tied up babysitting them. There are far too many potential secondary targets already."

Lou Anne smiles at the mention of Preston touching the statue. “I’m not certain how much distraction you can cut out, Miss Good seems to be constantly distracted, and that might filter through. But yes, we can go and get you a session with the statue. Hold that thought.” Motioning for them to follow, she walked towards the door leading to the back yard, but stopped in a side room and came out with a pair of overalls clearly big enough to go over Officer Preston’s suit in one hand and large rubber boots that would go over his shoes in the other. “I’m not sure how much mess this will make, so if you’d prefer not to mess your clothes up, or if you just prefer not to kneel on dirt, here you go, unless you’re wearing eufiber and it’s not an issue.”

After Preston had made his choice, Lou Anne lead them into the back yard. Near the back of the property was a low mound probably a dozen feel long by about four feet wide. New grass was growing between sod strips where the ground had been disturbed a few weeks ago. At their approach, a large metal sculpture atop the left side of the mound revealed itself as a marker for Lou Anne’s telekinesis to target as it rose into the air ahead of a length of tarpaulin. The soil, grass and such on that end all ended in a newly covered pile where the mound had ended. Newly exposed, still laying in a bed of relatively freshly excavated earth was a granite carving of Lou Anne’s face and upper torso albeit with something of a spaced out expression.

Lou Anne cleared her throat. “This was the best compromise we could come up with. I wanted to drop it from about thirty thousand feet, but at the same time, I didn’t want to destroy someone’s artwork. So, I buried it, but figured I’d leave it accessible in case I changed my mind. Have at it Captain.” She smiled slightly.

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The rock's memories had only recent shadows. It had remained comfortably at rest beyond his count of yours and then some. One touch of the statue delivered only a handful of clear, concise images.

The statue was used like an over-sized club to bludgeon a burning nova. Flights of quantum energy swirled around stonework as multiple novas fought around the object, all in a whirlwind of carnage that would only last a few seconds. Lastly, it returned to the ground with only minimal harm.

"We can use the statue to draw her out," Preston began. "We'll take it ..." and he caught a strand to something else. Not a gossamer thread of the tidal wave of possible futures that was kept just beyond his normal perceptions, but some discernable link to something else.

Abruptly, Preston turned and walked back into the house.

Selena looked to Lou Anne,

"He's on to something. Just keep out of his way."

Selena's voice was soft, but filled with an absolute need for obedience. The three came to an abrupt halt back in Lou Anne's study. Preston seemed to be holding an invisible object in his hands. We was either stroking it, or opening the cover. It was hard to say.

"Something here ... or something that ought to be here. A private book or picture in a frame. It is a key to unlocking her mind and we ... you have it ... but not here."

Preston turned his milky-white orbs to Lou Anne.

"Do you have anything of hers, or of your father's, still boxed up in storage?"

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"The only things of Dad's that are still in storage are a few of his books that aren't here in my office. That bookcase though, is full of Dad's things that have been unboxed." Lou Anne pointed to a wall behind and to the left of her desk. The wall was built out a bit so that the desk seemed to be built into the wall. Looking closer though, Preston noticed a small indentation where one might grab a recessed handle. It obviously served to prevent casual visitors or patients from seeing what was in the book case. Lou Anne walked over and opened the cover allowing Preston to see books and pictures.

An old Confederate flag encased in a protective case was on the top shelf, below were books on military history, military theory and military engineering tasks. Picture frames stood on several of the shelves showing members of Lou Anne's family going back to the Civil War. Some other scattered mementoes gave Preston a quick, mundane glance at the late Mr. Burgess' life.

"If these aren’t unmolested enough, I still have a few mementoes, his architectural and engineering books and his computer that are up in the attic. Mom has some boxes from Carla's room at her house that have been collecting dust for the better part of two decades. If any of that is useful, we can venture up or over and see what we can find." Lou Anne was thoughtful for a moment. “I know why you asked about Carla, but my Dad? If you’re really curious about Dad, I can either take you to his grave or to his favorite restaurant, he always tried to get the same seat.” Lou Anne teared up a bit thinking about it, but she blinked the tears away and cleared her throat wondering which way Captain Preston’s intuition would lead him.

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Preston looks around the room, to be more accurate, his head snaps this way and that as if he's trying to capture the view of something only visible at the periphery of his perceptions.

"No. Something from your Father ... something meant for you, from your father, but it never got here."

Preston sees Lou Anne's distress but tries to keep it from clouding his decision-making.

"Carla's stuff at your mother's," he decides.

Looking over to Selena,

"You'll open a portal, but stay here and wait for Rachel to arrive. We'll call you when we've found something."

Officer Ramirez snorts,

"As long as you remember what end the bullets come out of ..."

A moment after Lou Anne gives her the address, Selena warps the two novas to the the lawn in front of the senior Mrs. Burgess's house.

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Lou Anne steps through the odd warp gate looking at its effect on the world with a clinical eye. She couldn’t see the different forces creating it, but she sought some better understanding of this seemingly more brute force method of teleportation. Her study ends as the gateway closes and she turns to the door, forgoing the doorbell to knock on the door. She waits a moment and opens the door stepping into the house. “Mom? Captain Preston and I are here.”

In the quiet house, Preston hears the relatively loud sound of almost industrial ventilation as he steps through and follows Lou Anne to a room in the back of the ground floor. The room is filled with light and the faint smell of oil paint strains against the room's vents to reach him. Mrs. Burgess is an older woman, a bottle keeps her hair red and age has made her a bit plump. Age has not slumped her shoulders though and she stands before an easel, a smock covering her upper body, she’s applying a few small details to a portrait of an older man, presumably her husband. “Just a moment Lou Anne. I want to get this done before I forget what I was changing.” She works in silence for a few more moments before putting her palette down and placing the brush into a container of turpentine.

“Mom, this is Captain Preston from the Boston Police Department. I need to show him Carla’s things in the attic.”

Mrs. Burgess walks over, extending her hand to the officer. “Captain Preston, it’s a pleasure, Lou Anne and the Brenfords have told us so much about you and your department. How are you doing today? Can I get you something to drink while you’re searching, tea or coffee perhaps?” Her demeanor still radiating a transplanted southern hostpitality turns a bit strained as she asks, "Is something going on with Carla?"

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For just a moment, it strains around the edges - the effect of power use and abuse called taint. For an instance, it is some horrific angel standing before her disguised as a rumpled old man. Fear gnaws at her. She is judged and found wanting. The older Mrs. Burgess's heartbeat quickens and she takes a half step back. A sob builds up in the back of her throat ... and then he turns and looks at her and the moment is gone.

Now he is an older gentleman who's voice resounds with authority and whose eyes burn brilliantly with 'the sight'.

Captain Preston takes the offered hand and shakes it New England style.

"Pleasure to meet you as well Mrs. Burgess," Preston responds. "Yes, this does have to do with Carla, but to what extent we are currently investigating."

His grip is firm and his words confident. He betrays none of his present worries into his conversation with Lou Anne's mother.

"Tea would be nice, thank you. First, could you show us any boxed up items of Carla's. We are tracking down some leads and anything you might have could be of great assistance."

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"Lou Anne would you show him up to the attic and I'll get started on the tea. How do you normally take it Captain?" She smiled and dispensed with her smock once he had answered her question.

Lou Anne lead Captain Preston to the Attic access on the second floor. The house was tastefully, if a bit sparsely furnished, but there were paintings everywhere. On the way, she spoke. "You may remember that this is where Rachel and I lived last year. After the attack in Maryland, I wanted to bring Mom and Patty up here where they'd be safer so we found the new house and moved them in here after we moved out. They’ve only been up here since late January, so everything up here should be more or less undisturbed since the move.” At that, Lou Anne opened the door to the attic and started up the steps ahead of Preston.

They emerged into a full attic running the length of the house. While not finished to the point of being made into a useful room, it would require little to do so. Lou Anne lead towards the end of the attic that they had put the boxes in question and stops. Though Captain Preston wouldn’t know what belonged and didn’t, Lou Anne noticed another box that hadn’t been there before. Both of them however noticed a large painting, sitting on a pristine easel.

The painting showed a burning female demonic figure advancing on the cowering figure of a man. Malice burned in its soul-dead eyes and a mask of contemptuous hatred covered its face. There were precious few police photos that had survived the encounter with Carla, and fewer still the victims that had seen her in her flame wreathed glory and lived to report it. The painting showed Preston the terror of facing such a being from a perspective he had not seen in the real world in a very long time.

“Uh, the painting is new,” Lou Anne collected her wits quickly, “as you probably guessed. And there’s a box that I’m not familiar with.” She walked over to the collection of boxes and knelt to open the one that didn’t belong. Inside, Preston saw scraps of fabric, stuffing and broken wood, atop the pile of apparent trash however, was a wooden cross. “And this, is some of the remains of the chair that Carla used as a weapon, and the cross that Mom fended her off with.” She motioned to the other b oxes as she brought them out before him. "Open anything you want or need."

Lou Anne looked up at Preston wondering how familiar he was with the initial attack on her family and what questions he might have from examining the various items.

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It was like feeling yourself drawn to create the circuit. He knew it would be painful, but the needs of the past outweighed his feared for himself in the present.

Preston's right hand grasped the cross at the same time his left hand brushed the painting. The world as most people see it now fell away and there was this terrible screaming. Dimly Preston realized he was the one crying out in pain, being torn apart in two temporal directions. The cross, tool of the past was the key to the future. The painting was a doorway from the present into the past.

Lou Anne knew without a doubt that the Boston cop was having a vision and from the way his body jinxed and spasm, it wasn't a good one. Still, she was unsure what to do until she saw a tear come out of his left eye and slowly making its way down his cheek. The man was being tortured and she had to stop it. Lou Anne grabbed his left arm with both of her hands and gave it a firm yank away from the painting. It was tougher than she imagined it would be.

Preston spun away from contact and took an instant to recover some of his facilities. He was in Mrs. Burgess's attic once more. Dr. Lou Anne Burgess was here with him and her mother was downstairs. His gaze pivoted around until he was staring down the eyes in the painting.

"I've got you ... bitch," he growled out.

Now he seemed to notice the cross still in his hand. He handed it hurriedly to Lou Anne. His voice was grim and desperate.

"Keep this. When the time comes, drive it right into her God Damn node! Do it or we all suffer."

Mrs. Burgess could be heard coming up the stairs.

"Tea is ready, Captain Preston," she said.

Thank you," Preston replied somewhat distractedly. With even greater caution, Preston looked at Lou Anne speaking so as they could not be over-heard,

"I've been to her latest haven. I've see what she's done to the ... bodies. She's getting better at this and we don't have much time left."

Somewhat louder, he adds,

"Beautiful painting, Mrs. Burgess. It really captures her soul," he finishes going down to a whisper.

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Originally Posted By: Preston
"I've got you ... bitch," he growled out.
Now he seemed to notice the cross still in his hand. He handed it hurriedly to Lou Anne. His voice was grim and desperate.
"Keep this. When the time comes, drive it right into her God Damn node! Do it or we all suffer."

Lou Anne blanched slightly at the venom in Captain Preston’s voice and his last command. She hid her discomfort quickly and slipped the wooden cross into her coat’s pocket. She put the boxes back in place hurriedly as her mother announced the tea being ready. Lou Anne motioned to her mom that they would be down in a moment.

Originally Posted By: Preston
"I've been to her latest haven. I've see what she's done to the ... bodies. She's getting better at this and we don't have much time left."

She waited until after he’d complemented her mom on the painting then said quietly. “Apparently she’s also getting better at making police lose their composure. The Maryland Police were certainly trying to use a wall of lead to convince her to come quietly, albeit posthumously.” She paused. “Of course, they had just lost six officers in the line of duty. We’ll talk about this later, let’s go have some tea and I’ll break the news about her trip to mom.”

The two followed Mrs. Burgess downstairs to a sitting room. A large, framed painting of the Burgess Family – John and Martha with Lou Anne and Rachel, Wayne in his Air Force uniform and Patty, hung above a decorative fireplace. Mrs. Burgess poured tea and presented a tray of cookies to Captain Preston before she spoke. “Thank you for your kind words about the painting Captain Preston. It wasn’t a piece that I really wanted to paint, but it proved rather therapeutic in exorcising the demons from what happened in Maryland.” She grimaced, “I apologize for the pun, while perhaps appropriate, it was unintended and unfortunate. But you’re here about Carla, can I assume that you have a lead as to her whereabouts? Do you think you’ll be able to arrest her soon?”

Lou Anne glanced at Captain Preston just long enough to make sure she wasn’t going to cut him off and answered. “Yes mom, they do have some leads on Carla, and that’s the other reason we’re here.” Lou Anne paused and moved to sit next to her mother, she patted her hand gently. “Carla has proven rather unpredictable but we think she’s coming to Boston soon. We’ve talked about it and we’d like to ask you to take Patty and leave town for a little while so that she doesn’t know where you are. That way you’re even safer than you’d be up here under direct police protection.” Lou Anne turned to Preston to let him pick up the conversation.
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Taking up the conversation,

"Mrs. Burgess, we are making arrangements with the FBI to keep you and Patty in protective custody for the next week. I can't emphasize enough how much this would help our investigation, as well as let us here in the police department sleep easier knowing you two were safe."

Both her daughter and the police captain tag-teaming her knock the eldest Mrs. Burgess for a loop. Their words are urgent and sincere. She got up to give herself a few more moments to think.

"You've seen things?" she asked Captain Preston.

Preston nodded. "I've seen enough to know that you and your daughters' lives will be in danger if you remain. More importantly, you will be helping our investigation by keeping Carla focused on Lou Anne."

This wasn't news she wanted to hear, but it had the heavy feel of blunt honesty.

"What about Carla?"

"We are doing everything we can, Ma'am. I can't tell you that it looks promising, but our priority is to save lives, even Carla's if we can."

Preston shifted.

"I'm not going to lie to you. Carla is very dangerous and right now I have to take into account the death and damage Carla plans to bring to the rest of the city. I will promise you I will not stop looking for a way to end this encounter peacefully."

Mrs. Burgess looked deep into Preston's eyes. There was nothing but honesty there, though it was a grim truth she found. She looked to Lou Anne trying to find a better answer.

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Lou Anne didn’t bother smiling, she knew that it might be interpreted as being disingenuous. “He’s right Mom, Carla’s dangerous and she’s already demonstrated that she’ll change her target if she’s denied what she wants. The last time, when she went after Rachel and couldn't get her, she left and probably intended to kill all three of you in Columbia, not just Dad. If she’s thwarted again in coming after me, it’s a very safe bet she may go after you again. None of us, not you, the police or me wants that because you know what would happen.”

Mrs. Burgess looked between the two. “And there’s no way to protect us here?”

“That was the first thing we discussed mom. It could be done, but then there might not be enough people able to respond to handle Carla. This keeps you and Patty safe and lets the police have the maximum possible options to deal with her. More options means that ideally, fewer people get hurt or killed, that includes Carla.” Mrs. Burgess’ shoulders slumped a bit in defeat, Lou Anne rose and walked over to give her a hug. “It’s okay mom, we’re going to stop her and get her some help.” Though how we’d rehabilitate her I honestly don’t know. “But as with everything else, we need to cooperate with the police to do this.”

Mrs. Burgess nodded absently, she didn’t look defeated anymore, but she looked worried. “When will we need to leave Captain? And what about Patty’s school?” Lou Anne turned back towards Captain Preston, but kept an arm around her mom for moral support.

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"We are safe in holding off on this for 48 hours, but no longer. Beyond the initial transport out of town, your movements will be in the hands of the FBI. Arrangements for Patty to get her homework and keep up with the rest of her school functions can be handled by us."

It was definitely better than saying Our current working theory has us ambushing and assassinating your Carla so that she doesn't escape to kill both of you.

"We will have officers checking out your home on a regular basis as well. You shouldn't be gone for more than eight days. I can assure you this is for the best. It keeps you two safe, and allows Lou Anne and the rest of us keep the focus on anticipating Carla's movements."

Now Preston wanted to move her from defeated to being somehow capable of helping the investigation ... part of the solution.

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Mrs. Burgess nodded. “Well, I guess a week won’t be the end of the world.” She looked at Captain Preston. “You don’t know where we’ll be going correct?” He shook his head.

“Look at it as an adventure Mom. You and Patty, out on the road, just the two of you...” She gave a slight squeeze, “and your escorts. When was the last time you were footloose and care free?” Lou Anne started to smile despite herself. “Plans? Ha! You don’t need plans. Just pack for anything and you’ll be ready to for everything.” Preston could see Mrs. Burgess getting more excited about the prospect of the trip as Lou Anne promoted it.

“Okay dear, Captain, I guess I’ll start packing when the two of you leave.” She looked at Captain Preston. “I guess we shouldn’t have too many bags to keep up with?”

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"Think of it as a road vacation, Mrs. Burgess, except someone else has the wheel."

Preston tries to make it as light-hearted as possible considering the danger for all involved. By the time they leave, the mood seems positively upbeat. They stand outside, very slowly walking to the sidewalk as Preston makes some calls. First off, he calls for an unmarked car to begin surveillance on the Burgess household. Next he calls on Selena to bring them to Lou Anne's home.

Waiting for the pick-up, Preston turns to Lou Anne.

"I apologize for the bitch comment. When I tapped into Carla's activities, it was as one of her victims and that was ... unsettling."

"I am serious about our chances with her though. Only Crusader can hurt her enough to take her down if he can get close enough. The rest of us just don't do damage fast enough to cripple her without a good chance of also killing her and a better chance of her getting away."

"That leaves me in a moral bind. I am too aware of what she will do if she gets away from us. At the same time, she is a sick individual who desperately needs help. As a police officer I'm sworn to try and take her in alive."

"I just want you to know how close a thing I see it being."

Selena bent reality once more and the next footsteps brought them back to Lou Anne's doorway.

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Now that Lou Anne was home and no longer needing to convince her mother of the safety of the situation her good humour evaporated. She listened to Captain Preston’s explanation impassively and reached into the pocket of her coat. She spoke matter-of-factly.

“I may not have seen what you saw. I may not know exactly how many of the disappearances I’ve been tracking are really Carla kidnaping someone versus sheer coincidence or some other nut-job doing something. I may not even know everything she’s suffering from or what caused it all; but I assure you. I know how dangerous she is. I know how dangerous it is for her to get away from us. I know how many people she can kill at once if she wants to. I know the pain she can cause, and I know she likes it. I know that when we were little, she gave me a concussion pushing me off my bike into a brick wall. And I know that the last time I saw her, I almost beat her senseless with a van.” She grimaces at the memory.

“She’s a dangerous opponent, she was doing a life sentence and I doubt she wants to go back in a box. That makes her desperate. I think desperation is the only way she escaped last year, she was so tired she couldn’t regenerate any more, then she coughed up blood and disappeared.” She withdrew the cross from her pocket. “She ran from this, her flame aura disappeared when she saw it. We’re not in Chicago, you don’t have the numbers or firepower the Windy City Knights have, so rather than fight harder, we’ll fight smarter.”

“This,” she held the cross up for emphasis, “may well be our version of Archimedes’ lever. Her neurosis, be it mundanely inspired or brought on by Quantum Stress Syndrome is hopefully the fulcrum that we need to move her world. Not just this cross in particular I think, but any cross. Like they’ve taught me in my martial arts class, let’s use Carla to defeat Carla.”

“Having said all of that, I remain a doctor, and her sister. I’m not going to try to kill her, I’m not going to shove this,” she held up the cross again, “into her node. I am however, aware that you may for whatever reason, seemingly have no choice but to do what I’ve just mentioned. I’ve been in war zones and third world slums, I’m not going to get squeamish on you. I want to see her pay for what she’s done and get help, and I want to try to help keep her from hurting or killing as many people as possible.”

“Even if you successfully arrest her though, treatment may not be an option that the authorities allow, especially given her history. What will be, will be.” She sighed in resignation but seemed to cheer up some. “So, what’s the next step from here?”

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"Next, we set the trap at St. Emmanuel’s downtown near the Bay. It was closed by the dioceses back in the late 90's and is generally a den of meth-heads and crack addicts now. We spruce it up and spread a news story the Church is giving the land over to the NRT as a memorial garden for all they've done for the city. You will make a show of donating the statue to the site and we'll let it slip that you will be dropping off the statue the night before the opening."

Preston spoke so calm and matter of factly, but there was a supernatural sense to his words.

"Beyond that, we provide the officers in the unmarked cars with crosses tomorrow and set them up on their watch routine. Virgil will keep watch over your mother and sister until they leave the airport. Crusader will watch over your home for the next two days, but then I'll assign him elsewhere ... say back in the subways again."

"Our baseline responders will only know the general story - mother gone and the site being dedicated, but nothing of the trap. It’s the only way to deal with your sister's otherworldly presence."

Preston sighs,

"Our best bet is that they get to their crosses in time."

Looking to Lou Anne, he adds,

"We should also hide some body-sized crosses at the sight as well, to keep her off her guard and give you some extra time if you need it."

"We have to keep Virgil and Crusader away from this. They are too easy to keep track of. They both fly fast, but maybe not fast enough to be any help to any of us. The city is used to me being more mysterious, but I think I can provide as suitable distraction for me as well. We will just have to chance she's willing to cross quantum with Selena though. There is no good way to keep the general vicinity ... if I want you two to live."

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Lou Anne nods. “We’ll need to make sure the church looks as secular as possible so we can lure her in. A cross sitting outside may be enough to scare her away. Likewise inside we need to keep them hidden; corny as it sounds, maybe behind remote controlled doors so they can swing open when we spring the trap.”

Lou Anne pondered for a moment. “I guess Jack’s religious shop is gonna be doing bang up business in the near future.” She smiled hoping to lighten the mood a bit. “I don’t know how helpful it will be, but don’t forget that University of Massachusetts Amherst has a fire manipulator on retainer in case Carla comes back. I don’t know if you want to risk contacting them about him helping cover the aftermath if things go badly.”

“I’ll tell Rachel tonight and we’ll get ready. Once you have some trackers, Fed-ex them over and we’ll have them ready.”

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“The Fire Manipulator can be here no matter what, so no need to cause any leaks of information there. I will see what we can do about bringing some crosses in on auto-loaders too. We’ll have to strip out the churches insides and cover the windows – stained glass – but the outside will be easy to convert in the time we have. We’ll have some members of the dioceses and the NRT do it off-hours. Again, that will look natural. If I could, I would have the whole place fireproofed, but we don’t have the time or the resources. We go with what we can get.”

“Now, if she gets out, I’m going to go to the Archbishop’s office and see what help we can get on getting regalia to contain her or drive her off. We don’t want a fight with a firebug in our city. Of more immediate concern, were do we put Rachel if Carla gets free? In seconds, Selena can get her up to a kilometer away. Within ten seconds, that goes to any place on the planet. Were do you want her and were would she want to be?”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lou Anne nodded as Preston ticked off strategy. It was clear she wasn't happy about the fire risk to the city that Carla presented either.

"Regarding Rachel, it might be better for several reasons if Rachel and Selena work that out. Someplace safe where the lingua franca isn't English or Spanish would be my recommendation." She looked at Selena and then again to Preston. "If she runs, how far are we going to chase her? You know she'll just come back sooner or later if she gets away; or does that become someone else's problem?"

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Preston grinds his teeth ever so slightly.

"If we can keep it in clear pursuit, then to the ends of the Earth," he begins, "but once that's no longer clear, I have to hand that over to the FBI and the Directive. They don't like us over-stepping ourselves. Later, if they want our involvement, they will request it."

There are unspoken volumes of turf wars between Preston and the Feds, about what they will let him act on and what he will allow himself to act on despite their desires. Carla is just the latest chapter in this ugly side of law enforcement.

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  • 3 weeks later...



Not silence, stillness.

Nothing visible moved. No clocks ticked. No lights blinked. No people breathed. A coo-coo clock had once dared to announce the hour at an inopportune time. It’s smashed carcass remained – a warning to anything else that moved or blinked ... or coo-cooed.

Only one sound in the house was allowed when the mistress of the house was gone. In the kitchen, the refrigerator hummed quietly.

The stillness ended abruptly with a muffled popping sound and the stench of sulfur.

Carla Burgess, one of the most wanted people in the United States tossed part of a disguise onto the living room sofa and strode into what had once been a Family Room. Her wings stretched in a syncopated rhythm behind and beside her as if they were cramped. Likewise, her tail thrashed hither and thither.

In this room, the furniture had been moved against a single wall and collapsible tables stolen from a number of civic organizations throughout the country had been installed. Photos covered the walls above the tables and spilled onto the tables as well.

Carla reached into a box of roofing nails pressing the nails through the paper she held and into the sheet rock wall behind it as others might use a thumbtack and cork board. Her work done, she again read the brief news article that told of the dedication of a monument to the men and women of Boston’s Nova Response Team.

She had been acting through proxies and agents for far too long and it was time to stop hiding. It would surely be a public relations nightmare, reflecting badly on the entire NRT if their dedication was interrupted. She smiled. She couldn’t wait to congratulate her sister on the hard work she was doing. Of course, considering the insanity of Nova salaries, a department wide bad performance review would surely save the town a fortune. They'd no doubt thank her for their windfall.

She turned and walked over to a large map of Boston. With a quick stroke of a highlighter she located and marked the site of the dedication. It joined a constellation of other color coded marks.

There were plans to make

arrangements to see to

disguises to finalize

people to torture

people to kill

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Preston walked through the building one more time. There wasn’t much point looking forward into the future this close to the confrontation. This close there was too many variables to make any reading clear enough to be useful. Now he would have to rely on his experience and training. His people were as ready as he could make them. The trap was as strong as he could make it and still keep in from being obvious.

Still he walked the grounds one more time. People would be risking their lives here and it was his responsibility. Preston wouldn’t say his fault because he put that blame solely on Carla. He didn’t know what made Carla so full of hate and that was no longer a part of his concerns. Carla was the killer and she had to be stopped.

Selena was waiting for him when he came back to the foyer. She looked calm and relaxed. She always got that way once action was assured. Preston gave her a grim smile and said,

“We are as ready as we can be.”

In case anyone was watching the building, she warped them back to the office. Once there, Preston gave a last minute briefing to the various officers who would be close support for the night. They double-checked their crosses and then went down stairs for another weapons check. Individual members did whatever they could to deal with the stress. Despite their name as Nova Enforcement, they did very little confronting actual novas. This would be their first ambush and even though they didn’t have the lead roles, each wanted to do their part and do it right.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Danger. Over the past few years Lou Anne had become somewhat inured to danger. Her work had taken her to parts of the third world where it still wasn’t safe to drink the water. She had been to places where regional battles were waged with all the ferocity and firepower of a World War a scant few miles from her operating theater. She had seen violence, she had experienced danger with the MSF. But it was always the worst before the deployment. Once deployed, there were lives to be saved, procedures to be done, flesh to be sewn.

But before the deployment, there was only anxiety. How many dead already? How close is the front? How long will it last? Will we be attacked? Will I leave in once piece? What equipment don’t I have that I’ll need? These and a thousand different questions and scenarios besieged someone who was merely waiting. This lead to talking among the doctors, a special kind of almost gallows humor that allowed them to laugh at the darkness.

Inaction allowed anxiety. Action disabled it; so Lou Anne acted. She was in her studio, the very place that Officer Preston had reached her a few weeks ago. Rather than the quiet, barely audible music for her martial arts practice though, the room was filled with music. She did what she had run away from for too long. She danced. The music and the motion replaced the still quiet of the dojo and became her meditation. As she worked through her choreography she calmed her mind and ran through likely outcomes for the day ahead.

There would almost assuredly be death but Selena would take Rachel to safety. The barely felt transponder that Lou Anne had been wearing for a few days would be the team’s link to her if Carla took her away. She ran through the dedication ceremony, the horrible statue that was the center piece of the trap, the hidden religious artifacts and all of the different pieces of Officer Preston’s plan. She wondered how well it would survive first contact with Carla.

Finally, the music ended. The long dance routine had let her work through her anxiety and also come to her own peace with the looming situation. And it had let her get just a bit tired. She didn’t anticipate trouble sleeping tonight.


Tomorrow she would worry about tomorrow.

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Guest Carla Burgess

Vacation! How can you go on vacation when school’s still in session? Why didn’t we ever go on a vacation during school when I was growing up? I’m gonna so enjoy ripping Patty to little shreds when they get back. I definitely need to make sure Mom has a front-center seat. Carla finished touching up her make up in the hotel’s mirror. With the dark wig and changes to her appearance she certainly didn’t look like the fair skinned red head whose picture hung in wanted posters around the country. It should allow her to stay below the police radar and get close to her objectives. She smoothed a few wrinkles from her dress and gathered her things into a small purse.

The last item she picked up was her portable phone. She quickly scanned the emails seeing that the dupes she’d been using to scout Boston had done their job. Ah, bored rich kids. I guess that’s all we were to Rob at first. Convenient help in his criminal endeavors. It’ll be a treat to see how many Humpty Dumpties there are after today. She smiled, a few of the kids had potential, if she could overcome their moral quirks to wet-work. Today should show her who was ready to be a real partner in her work, and who was going to run screaming to mommy and daddy.

She slipped the phone into her purse, grabbed the keys and exchanged the gloom of the motel room for the late morning sun. Nothing of hers remained in the room. A middle aged man lay in the bed covered by a blood stained sheet. The room’s complementary plastic comb had been jammed through his throat as he had begun to dress after his lover had left last night. It was a shame that she couldn’t kill both men, but she needed a hotel room close enough to Boston to not drive all day. The fact that the police would likely have his partner in for questioning by the afternoon was an okay consolation prize.

The door closed and locked behind her, the Do Not Disturb sign still in place where they had put it last night. Pressing the unlock button on the key, she walked towards the middle range luxury car that her roommate for the evening had gifted her with. He was impressed with her mission, it was selfless quest after all...

She had a Divine Mandate; it was time to save Lou Anne.

The car sprung to life, and Death came to Boston.

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It was the fourth car bomb the NRT had taken out so far and Preston seriously suspected there were two more to go. The team had been run ragged around the city, but right now the Boston PD was running down the young adults who had been dumb enough to do this dangerous stunt. All this fore-sensing was giving Preston a headache. There were now too many over lapping points of interference for him to get an accurate forecast for the near future. Still, he had years of experience as a detective and a laser-fast mind to figure out just what his current enemy was up to. She wouldn’t deviate from her main goal – Lou Anne Burgess. Everything still centered on this woman and he wouldn’t get distracted.

Miles away, in a residential suburb on the edge of Boston, Virgil landed outside of a nice late-last century house. He knew better than acknowledge the uncover stake out team down the street and tonight he was just too tired to care. Essentially, he was to act like a scarecrow for Ms. Lou Anne and Rachel until sunrise. He had already spent much of the night running around and he felt his reserves running low. Still, a job was a job and he had joined the NRT to save lives and, occasionally, fight the novas who would so cavalierly take those lives.

The church was ready. A years worth of partial neglect had been fixed or swept away. The stain glass windows had been fixed, the inside brass polished and the statuses of the saints and the Virgin cleaned up. The pews had been reworked. Now they were less an act of contrition and more a place were visitors would be comfortable sitting down. They were now far less likely to catch fire and burn.

The attached rector and garden had also been given a facelift. The Rectory’s bottom floor had become an education center, or so it would appear. The upper levels held new office spaces for who ever would end up running this new center. Oddly enough, none of the phone or computer lines were active yet. The lights throughout the building worked once more. How else could they highlight the giant statue in the adjoining garden showing of one of Boston’s Most Selfless Souls etched in granite?

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Guest Carla Burgess

Failure was not something that Carla relished thinking about. But in planning her trap to catch her sister and embarrass the Boston Police, Carla could think of no better place to hide near Boston than the site of her biggest failure; Amherst. It was with some trepidation that Carla drove to the Best Western hotel in Amherst and booked a room. Had she not already planned the expense, she wouldn't have had the funds to cover it. She had spent all of her ill gotten gains preparing for today.

That her disguise required her to remain unnoticed played well with the scarcity of funds. She relaxed as many people would. She watched the Opfeed in her room, she had a light lunch from the attached restaurant. In the afternoon, she made a few calls on a disposable phone. Her plan hadn’t gone so well so far. The police had found most or all of the bombs it seemed. Perhaps she had underestimated the NRT. She quickly dismissed that idea, any doubt at this point would do nothing but poison her chances of getting to Lou Anne. She readied the second half of her plan. All was in motion now. She was committed, she would not fail. And that precognitive cop would never see the irony coming.

For dinner she had allotted enough money to go out to a nice restaurant. While she had eaten fairly well at the expense of her victims over the past months, she had taken few opportunities to indulge in restaurants or such. It had been seventeen years nearly to the day since she’d been in a restaurant, her senior prom. Rob had been ravishing in his tuxedo. The memory turned her thoughts to seeing him again, perhaps after this was over, she would.

She looked forward to dinner...

...almost as much as she looked forward to seeing Lou Anne.

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Rachel had been doing an admirable job of appearing relaxed over the past few days. She had been calmer than Lou Anne in fact. But when the phone rang at four in the morning, she vaulted from the bed with a shriek. Rachel’s rapid evacuation woke Lou Anne more than the actual phone which she was reaching for. It had been Hopkins, they had just received a call from one of the cases that Lou Anne had been consulting on. Given the situation they described, Lou Anne had little choice but to travel to Richmond, Virginia to assist in surgery. She called the NRT operator to check in and quickly readied herself for the trip.

Rachel had jumped at the chance, less literally in this case, to accompany Lou Anne away from Boston for a bit of a respite from the waiting. Lou Anne had a full day in the OR and Rachel took advantage of a small room to grade papers and in the early afternoon, got away to do a little site seeing. So it was that as five PM approached, the two women had spent most of the day actually relaxed. Deciding to get dinner now and forego cooking at home so they’d have more time to get ready they left for a restaurant that Lou Anne remembered from her childhood more than twenty years before.

Dinner was one last bit of happiness, and then the dread of facing Carla again could be avoided no longer.

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It was well past noon at the NRT building. Of all the novas, only Crusader was still on duty. The rest had gone home for some much needed rest. Even the baseline personnel operated at reduced capacity. They had also had a long night and expected another long night in the immediate future. Such was the life in the NRT.

Preston sat at his desk, wishing he had a smoke, but knowing the hell he would catch if he lit one up inside. He was also cooling down - not spending any quantum and trying to build up his reserves. Instead, he prodded his prodigious intellect over all the information he had been able to gather on Carla, looking for anything he had missed.

Families had been moved. Personnel were taking time off at a hotel just down the street. Security on equipment and vehicles had been doubled. Even key city officials had extra security.

The press had gotten word that something sinister was going on. The early morning frantic activity around the NRT had been called an Emergency Exercise, but not everyone believed it. The dedication ceremony was a big event, but already it had been leaked that the mayor wouldn't be available. A few other key officials had no comment. All of this had the press corp sensing blood in the water, but no one was sure of just what was going on ... so far.

Already, one city second-tier functionary had called up trying to worm out of tonight's event. Preston had carefully laid out why the man had to be there. How keeping the dedication believable was the best bet anyone had of putting a mass-murderess away. There had been the repeat of assurances of how everyone would be okay and the villainess would be brought to justice ... and how everyone who did take part would be lauded for the city spirit and personal courage. It had worked, but Preston was expecting more calls like that as the day wore on.

The afternoon wore on and more of the NRT employees were making their way back for their pre-mission briefings and equipment checks. Virgil showed up first amongst the novas, looking all bright and refreshed. Aguilar was next. He was still looking sour about missing out on tonight's main event. He was to coordinate activities back at HQ and respond to other "normal" problems. Selena showed up last. Her emotions were a mask. She knew soon that another's life would be in her hands and she wanted to be ready.

Crusader had left by the time Selena arrived. He went to the airport awaiting Lou Anne's return flight. The Englishman missed his family ... he hadn't seen them in three days, and was a bit bitter he wouldn't be right on hand to give this Carla-person a bit of personal justice. He trusted Preston, but he was still wishing for a greater role in the fight. Now, all he could do was wait for the two poor women who were at the center of this maelstrom to arrive and make sure they were safe until night fall.

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Saturday May 6, 2017

Logan Airport

Just outside the main Customs office at Logan airport is a roped off area. It’s tucked away in a corner that had previously been used to hold spare pallets for items entering quarantine. Over the past year though, the pallets had been moved and first White lines drawn around the area, then finally a set of poles with a velvet rope. Two small cameras surveyed the area twenty four hours a day. One fed to the Airport’s security office and the Custom’s office. The other fed to the Airport’s Opsite so that Nova travelers could check if their destination was clear. As a bonus, people at home could watch the comings and goings of those Novas that made use of the airport for the start or end points when traveling abroad under their own power. One of the most common novas to use this area, and the one for whom it had originally been cleared was Doctor Lou Anne Burgess. Dr. Burgess’ work took her to Europe often and this allowed her to keep her passport current for her official travel.

Not long before six in the evening, Lou Anne and Rachel were leaving the arrival area near Customs and walking out towards the main concourse. Crusader, a member of the NRT met them before they reached the Concourse. From his watch point he had seen them arrive but he acted casually in the event they were being watched. Once outside, Crusader left to fly to their house and Lou Anne teleported herself and Rachel home to get ready for the dedication ceremony.

* * * * *

“ You know, if Carla doesn’t kill Officer Preston tonight, I might. Why didn’t I stop him from suggesting something that would mix tuxedos and designer gowns with waiting for an ambush? I feel like I’m in a bad James Bond movie.”

Rachel shook her head, “It’s not the clothes, besides, you’ve just made your eufiber look like that; and it’s not the ambush. You’re just pissed that he wants the statue so well lit at night.”

“You’re right. I can’t wait to bury that thing again.”

“I know, but at least they didn’t hide bird seed on the shoulders or hands so that you’d look like a some slightly stoned, female variation on Saint Frances.” Lou Anne’s snort of laughter brought a smile to Rachel’s face as she finished putting in the earrings she was wearing tonight. Rachel turned and saw Lou Anne placing a large wooden cross in what could best be described as a holster concealed in her skirting. “Do you think that will work?”

“Carla believes it will work, or she did last year, that’s what I think matters.”

Rachel nodded. Both women took a last look in the mirror and satisfied, left the room. Darkness descended on the room and then through the house as they left for the ceremony.

The waiting was almost over, everything was as ready as it could be.

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